Hundreds of students and grad student employees march and block traffic before delivering more than 350 letters demanding a fair contract for the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO), UAW Local 2322 AFL-CIO. GEO represents 2400 grad employees who teach and do research at UMass and has been negotiating with the University for over one year for a new contract. UMass is seeking major concessions in the areas of healthcare and childcare and is offering low raises which result in a decrease in real wages as compared to inflation. UMass already ranks 6 out of 7 peer institutions in terms of compensation for grad employees--concessions will make UMass dead last. For more info see http://www.geouaw.org
The march was also protesting UMass Chancellor Lombardi's plan to respond to a Diversity Commission report that showed clear racial tensions on campus, recently demonstrated by emails showing complicity between Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Mike Gargano, Director of Student Legal Services Chuck Dimare, and SGA leader Patrick Higgins in undermining the Office of ALANA Affairs. Union grievances have been filed, as well as unfair labor practice charges with Mass Labor Relations Commission. More info at http://www.takebackumass.com
Other labor direct action on the campus has included flying pickets and leafletting new student tours. Faced with university intransigence at the bargaining table, GEO plans to escalate actions in coming weeks.